Rent control for mobile home parks, officially recognizing Little Arabia and public discussions of the Angel Stadium deal – these are just a few of the ideas minority council members in Anaheim were unable to get their colleagues to discuss over the past few years.

But minority council members who were often ignored by their colleagues, like Jose Moreno, may soon be able to single handedly schedule policy discussions on meeting calendars, which could give residents a greater chance to get their proposals debated by the City Council. 

Under a new proposed policy up for debate at Tuesday’s meeting, council members would be able to get an issue added to a meeting agenda without support from their colleagues.

If the resolution is adopted, it would go into effect immediately – opening up the door for the council to have discussions on issues they refused to consider in the past, like officially recognizing Little Arabia.

[Read: Will Anaheim’s Little Arabia be Officially Recognized After More Than a 10-year Push?]

It’s a stark change to the current policy implemented shortly after Harry Sidhu was elected as mayor in 2018, which requires Anaheim council members to have the support of at least two council members to get an item of discussion added on an agenda.

[Read: Anaheim Mayor Sidhu, Backed By Council Majority, Makes Sweeping Changes to Public Meetings]

Council minority voices like Moreno and former councilwoman Denise Barnes have said Sidhu’s changes were intended to silence them and any proposals they had – including discussions on stadium deal negotiations.

“What this means is 57,000 people who I represent have been fundamentally disenfranchised from having agenda items important to them, be discussed by our council and I hope that we can certainly eradicate that rule so that we can allow the district system and people who elected us here to have their items heard,” Moreno said at the June 7 city council meeting.

[Read: Anaheim Council Majority Silences Minority]

Following an federal investigation into corruption at Anaheim City Hall and Sidhu resigning last month, the council members could soon toss out the policy when they meet today at 5 p.m. 

Sidhu, backed by his council majority, started to spearhead changes to Anaheim’s agenda setting requirements in 2018 and 2019 –  one of which mandated that two other city council members support a colleague’s agenda proposal before it gets scheduled. 

Councilman Trevor O’Neil – once a part of Sidhu’s majority who backed the changes in 2019 – announced he wanted to do away with the agenda setting rule on the same day Sidhu’s resignation went into effect.

Under the proposed resolution, “any member of the City Council may, during the Council Agenda Setting portion of a City Council meeting, request that an item be placed on a future City Council regular meeting agenda.”

The resolution keeps the Mayor’s ability to place an item on the city council meeting agenda outside a public meeting through the city manager’s office.

Some of Sidhu’s other rules are also still in place – like a six-month hold on policies and items already debated by city council members. 

Any item or issue that the council discusses or votes on will not be allowed to be brought back by a council member until after at least six months or through support from two other council members, according to the proposed rule change.

Moreno, a stadium deal critic and often the dissenting vote on the Anaheim City Council, at a meeting earlier this month listed off issues he has asked his fellow council members to publicly discuss in the last three years.

These included: workshops and presentations on the now squashed Angel Stadium deal, a resolution on supporting Black Lives Matter, and multiple attempts to have a discussion on the process of public commenting during remote meetings.

But those discussions never happened.

Moreno – the minority vote on the council – has found it difficult to get the support needed to have those discussions.

He said none of the 13 items he had tried to get on meeting agendas in 2020 received the support needed to be discussed.

“January to December 2020, during our year of COVID – No motions that I asked to be agendized were agendize as a function of this rule.”

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC reporter and corps member with Report for America, a GroundTruth initiative. Contact him at helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam.

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